sábado, 24 de junio de 2017

Debunking Greg Grandin's lionizing of Chavez

London Review of Books
Dear Sirs:
I attach the following comments on Greg Grandin's review titled "Down from the mountain". I am a Venezuelan geologist and have kept a running analysis of the Chavez years in my blog : www.lasarmasdecoronel.blogspot.com . In my view Ignacio Ramonet and Greg Grandin, among others, are failing in their attempts at creating a myth Chavez. He is progressively recognized as the main motor behind the current Venezuelan tragedy.  
Gustavo Coronel
8360 Greensboro drive #710
Mclean, Virginia 22102


In a long review of a book by Ignacio Ramonet: “Chavez: My first life”, read it here: https://www.lrb.co.uk/v39/n13/greg-grandin/down-from-the-mountain?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=3913&utm_content=usca_subs , Greg Grandin describes the social and political chaos which prevails in Venezuela but fails to identify correctly its true reasons, claiming falling oil prices as the sole culprit for the Venezuelan tragedy. His review is little more than an ideologically driven white washing of the Chavez years and, as such, contains important factual and conceptual errors, some born of ignorance while some others are fantasies that could only be accepted by ideologically related readers.
By the end of the last century, Venezuela’s old constitutional order, which for four decades had rotated power between two ideologically indistinguishable parties, was close to collapse. The crisis had started decades earlier, in 1983, when the bottom fell out of the world oil market. . . .

Much of the review by Grandin is dedicated to the Chavez pre-era. He justifies the military coup staged by Chavez in 1992 as being a movement for clean government and in defense of the poor. He fails to mention that Chavez had been planning this coup against democratically elected governments for about ten years, first as a student in the military academy and, later, as a member of the Armed Forces, finally to see it collapsing due to his clumsiness and cowardice. The country rejected the coup but did elect him as president six years later, due to the prevailing popular perception that a radical change in the political system was required. What Venezuelans did not realize was that change is not always for the better.

Grandin speaks of Chavez’s bolivarianism as the foundation of his policies, although this was not true. He used the name of Bolivar to give his policies respectability but his true objective was to create in Venezuela a replica of Castro’s Cuba. Under the tutelage of Fidel Castro and inspired by extremist ideologues such as Norberto Ceresole and Martha Harnecker  he created a fascist type of government in which he and the military were the dominant actors.
He was expelled from power in 2002 for about 36 hours when he tried to repress the largest match seen in Venezuela until then but the military refused to obey him and, instead, asked for his resignation. He returned to power thanks to General Raul Baduel, who had the required fire power to decide. This event is well documented and Grandin’s claim that his return was due to a popular movement in his favor is a fantasy.
According to Grandin Chavez put the oil money to good use into health and education, praising the so-called “Misiones” as examples of this strategy. The idea of the “Misiones” was given to him by Fidel Castro but it was far from being a true solution to poverty. They became simple handouts, the proverbial one fish a day, for people who were not being taught how to fish. The real impact of these “Misiones” was modest and rapidly dwindled. Data from the Venezuelan Central Bank concluded that the Pre-Chavez, traditional programs of aid to the poor, were much more effective than the “Misiones”, see: http://lasarmasdecoronel.blogspot.com/2011/11/el-fracaso-de-las-misiones-segun-el.html.
Siempre hemos pensado que los programas sociales del gobierno, basados en el concepto de ayuda directa, subsidio, hasta limosna, no eran los apropiados para resolver ...

The huge amounts of money given by Chavez to his ideological allies and to the poor, in exchange for their political loyalties,  were the source of the greatest corruption the country had ever witnessed. Although Chavez won the presidency promising to end corruption his 12 year regime ended as the most corrupt in Venezuelan history. I have estimated that no less than $300 billion of Venezuelan national income went into the wrong pockets, see:https://oslofreedomforum.com/talks/corruption-panel-speech-2 andhttps://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/four-hotbeds-corruption-venezuela for details.
Gustavo Coronel was author of the Cato Institute study Corruption, Mismanagement and Abuse of Power in Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela and was the Venezuelan ...

The Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF) provides a global platform for human rights defenders to share their stories and unites a diverse community in challenging arbitrary ...

In the opinion of Grandin: “The social gains of Chavismo at its apex, from around 2005 to Chávez’s final re-election in 2012, were spectacular: greater employment, improved nutrition, increased literacy and life expectancy, more and better housing”. However, it has become evident, under the test of time, that these programs were only short-term and effectist. Today poverty in Venezuela is greater than ever before. Chavez’ subsidies created a legion of poor highly dependent on the paternalistic regime. For some time they had more money in their pockets but, as the money stopped flowing, they were left frustrated and poorer than ever.  
Chavez went on to dismantle all democratic institutions in the country, eliminating checks and balances. Grandin admits “he stacked” the Supreme Court with his followers and reined in the opposition media. Although Grandin recognizes these abuses he goes on to absolve Chavez, labeling him as a true democrat and forgetting to mention his efforts to change the constitution to become president “for life”.
According to Grandin Chavez claimed to be a happy child and this leads him to believe that “Class ressentiment was not the source of his fusillades against Venezuela’s oligarchy”. However, there are solid indications that Chavez’s childhood was not a happy one. According to his biographers Barrera and Marcano, see: https://www.abebooks.com/Hugo-Chavez-Uniforme-Uniform-Spanish-Edition/20552642220/bd Chavez was an unhappy, neglected child, rejected in school because he could not afford new shoes. Venezuelan psychiatrists suggest that his erratic policies owe much to class resentment, see:  http://www.abc.es/20100912/internacional/chavez-divan-201009110102.html .
AbeBooks.com: Hugo Chavez Sin Uniforme / Hugo Chavez Without Uniform (Spanish Edition): Only lightly used. Book has minimal wear to cover and binding. A few pages may have small creases and minimal underlining.

Mitómano, megalómano, fabulador, compulsivo, narcisista, carismático, seductor, envidioso, carente de escrúpulos. Éstos son algunos de los rasgos que psiquiatras ...

Grandin offers an idealized version of Chavez’s influence in OPEC. It is true that the years of 2001 and 2002 saw a raise on oil prices this was due to a concerted effort led by Saudi Arabia to cut production. As Secretary General of OPEC Venezuelan Ali Rodriguez never had the complete authority Grandin Claims. In fact, by July 2002 he had already been replaced.
In Grandin’s view the creation of Petro Caribe, the group of Caribbean countries receiving subsidized oil from Chavez government represented “a positive act of politicization of the Venezuelan oil industry”. The truth is that Venezuela has given about $30 billion in oil subsidies to these countries, in order to buy their political alliance in international organizations such as the OAS and the UN. Although this political allegiance has proven to be very useful to the Chavez/Maduro regime, it has been bought at an enormous cost to the nation, with money that could have been put to good use in Venezuela.  
As Chavez died, says Grandin, oil prices collapsed, suggesting a connection cause-effect. Venezuelan economy, he says, “began to spiral out of control”. This is a dishonest claim. The Venezuelan economy had been out of control for years. In fact, when Chavez died the country was heavily indebted to China, a the tune of some $60 billion, the Venezuelan Central Bank international reserves had been raided by his government and the Missions (Misiones) had essentially collapsed, Chavez influence on Latin America had evaporated, oil income had largely been stolen or wasted and Venezuela was in ruins. Millennium Development Goals were not “impressively reduced”, as he claims.  Although political propaganda costing millions of dollars made possible a rosy account of the Venezuelan economic and social  statistics the truth was revealed by independent media, in which the poor performance of Venezuela was exposed, see for example:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/09/21/venezuela-has-solved-its-hunger-problem-dont-believe-the-u-n-s-numbers/?utm_term=.107d770d952e
Hunger is one of the world’s most pressing development problems. It should have been great news when the United Nations announced at the close of the Millennium ...

Grandin has a poorer opinion of Chavez’s replacement, Nicolas Maduro. He says: “Now, the news is of infant deaths skyrocketing, of Venezuelans going hungry and many fleeing, either overland to Colombia or by boat to Curacao. Diseases the country hadn’t seen in decades are back, diphtheria among them. Vaccination rates have fallen, hospitals lack gloves and syringes, cancer and HIV patients are buying their medicine on the black market, and filthy operating rooms could double as sets for horror movies”. And he adds:  “The unity that Chávez managed to achieve within OPEC is gone, largely due to competition from natural gas. Mexico’s state oil company, Petróleos Mexicanos, is currently being privatized, much in the way that PDVSA was before Chávez halted the process. Petro Caribe hobbles on. PDVSA is indebted and practically bankrupted”.
It is totally wrong to pretend this collapse only came about after Chavez died. Of course Maduro’s ineptitude has added to the tragedy but Venezuela’s economic and social collapse already existed.  Maduro, after all, was Chavez’s chosen successor.  
Grandin ends his eulogy saying:  “Chávez, in death as in life, continues to transcend the polarisation. According to a recent poll, 79 per cent picked him as the best president the country has ever had. A slightly smaller but still large majority say he was Venezuela’s most democratic and efficient leader”. This is ridiculous. Only a poll paid by the government could have claimed such a monstrous lie.
This review by Greg Grandin confirms the existence of a group of fellow travelers intent in creating a Chavez myth. Venezuelan reality shows that the popular memory of Chavez is growing more and more negative, as the country remains under the effects of his demented policies.

9 comentarios:

Anónimo dijo...

During the activities yesterday of change in the military leadership, the following refrain was repeated a vomit inducing number of times:

Some General: Chavez vive!
Maduro: Y la patria sigue
General: Independencia y patria socialista!
Maduro: viviremos y venceremos
General: El sol de venezuela nace en el Esequibo!
Maduro: Nace en el esequibo

What demented mind created this "cursileria".

david1952000 dijo...

Leftists always want to be judged on their intentions, not the horrible results of their actions.
"Their heart was in the right place." Chavez was just another Castro wannabe hero whose revolution could only survive as long as the oil-addicted capitalist gringos continued to pay him billions of $$$ for his oil. When there is no more money to steal, socialism fails. The mechanism of creation of wealth is beyond their understanding, only the seizure of other people's wealth and redistribution. It always seems like it's working for awhile. Then the crooks and the looters step in and the repression starts.

Anónimo dijo...

Antetodo soy espanol vivo en Espana: este medio me impide publicar enlaces a páginas del regimen y de los opositores sobre los fallecidos en venezuela: me dice que los del alba no los puedo publicar y me bloquea. os recomiendo buscarlos en google : poner Alba listado fallecidos, para el oficial y El Nacional para la versión opositora en el buscador y comparadlos: os lo daba hecho pero la empresa americana que nos da cobijo acá dice que tiene sus "normas". Pura ideología, obviamente). La libertad en internet mengua.
Sólo una nota: el listado de El nacional, "olvida" los 8 policias muertos por bala y no identifica los autores de muertes (muchas) cuyo causante no sea la policía o los chavistas. Realmente interesante comparar ambos listados. Luego que cada uno saque sus conclusiones.
Sobre lo "otro" yo ya he sacado las mías.

Boludo Tejano dijo...

In the opinion of Grandin: “The social gains of Chavismo at its apex, from around 2005 to Chávez’s final re-election in 2012, were spectacular: greater employment, improved nutrition, increased literacy and life expectancy, more and better housing”.

For housing, I refer Grandin to my Caracas Chronicles comment in 2013. Quote:
Let us now deal with "national affordable housing industry." Several months ago Quico had a very informative graph at Gran Mision Mad Rush to Catch Up After Years of Broken Promises. While Quico’s graph compared housing construction per year for Chavismo versus Fourth Republic, he did not translate this into a housing construction per capita per year stat.
From the link @ page 5 that Quico supplied in his comment @February 6, 2013 at 10:04 am, I got concrete numbers, which agree- not surprisingly- with Quico’s graph.
Housing Construction per year
1979-1998 65,871
1999-2012 53,481

To translate this into a housing construction per capita stat per year, I went to the same World Bank link where I got the economy figures.
Average population for 1979-1998: 19,043,171
Average population for 1999-2011 26,575,846
The World Bank data doesn’t give population for 2012, but by extrapolating 2011’s growth for 2012, one can come up with an average population for 1999-2012: 26,801,060
Not much difference.

When this is translated into Housing Units constructed per year per 100,000 population, we get:

1979-1998 346
1999-2012 200 [using pop average 1999-2012]
1999-2012 201 [using pop average 1999-2011]

Once again, metrics show that Chavismo comes up short. What a surprise.

As A Barreda’s comment at the Gran Mision link show, the recent surge in housing construction has a number of very poorly constructed housing units. So the recent surge in housing construction has to be taken with a considerable grain of salt.

In the last year I have seen some undocumented claims that under Chavismo some 1,500,000 housing units have been built, which given the previous well-documented figure of 53,461 units per year from 1999-2012, imply that around 200,000 housing units per year were built from 2013-2016. Which sounds like utter nonsense, given the performance of the Venezuelan economy from 2013-2016.

Boludo Tejano dijo...

In the opinion of Grandin: “The social gains of Chavismo at its apex, from around 2005 to Chávez’s final re-election in 2012, were spectacular: greater employment, improved nutrition, increased literacy and life expectancy, more and better housing”.

From 2005 to 2012, Venezuela's Life Expectancy increased 0.72 years, compared to 1.57 years for Latin America. From 2005 to 2012, Venezuela's Life Expectancy went from 9th to 11th in Latin America.

Only a lying PSF or Chavista would call that gain "spectacular."
I would add that the record for 1999-2012 is similar for Life Expectancy, as in 1999, Venezuela's Life Expectancy ranked 9th in Latin America.

I would also add that it is only fair to include housing construction for Chavismo from 1999-2012, given Chavismo's abysmal housing construction record from 1999-2008.

Regarding Literacy;

Latin America
Literacy rate, adult total (% of people ages 15 and above),2000 89.7%
Literacy rate, adult total (% of people ages 15 and above),2010 92.6%

Literacy rate, adult total (% of people ages 15 and above),2001 89.7%
Literacy rate, adult total (% of people ages 15 and above),201192.6%

Adult Literacy increase
Venezuela 1.8% from 2001-2011
Latin America 2.9% from 2000-2010

If the claim is made that literacy gains were greater after 2005, here are the adult literacy figures from the World Bank.
Venezuela: Adult Literacy,
2001 93.0 %
2007 95.2 %
2009 95.5 %
2011 94.8 %

As there is a decline in adult literacy from 2009 to 2011, those "spectacular" gains in literacy after 2005 make just one more BS Chavista/PSF claim. Just like the claims that UNESCO had declared Venezuela an "illiteracy-free zone."

World Bank World Development Indicators.

Gustavo Coronel dijo...

Lo mismo sucedió con la "Misiones". Aquí pongo el link al artículo que escribí sobre el fracaso de las Misiones, basado en cifras del Banco Central de Venezuela:

Boludo Tejano dijo...

So Misiones coverage peaked in 2005,and gradually declined. So much for “The social gains of Chavismo at its apex, from around 2005 to Chávez’s final re-election in 2012,were spectacular."

Which supports the supposition that Chavez pulled the Misiones out of his hat to gain support in the 2004 Recall Referendum. With the Recall won- by hook or by crook- the motivation to financially support the Misiones gradually diminished.

In any event, the "achievements" of Chavismo have long been mostly smoke and mirrors.

I wonder how Mr. Grandin and the London Review of Books would react to all this.

Boludo Tejano dijo...


Literacy rate, adult total (% of people ages 15 and above),2001 93.0%
Literacy rate, adult total (% of people ages 15 and above),2011 94.8%

Latin America
Literacy rate, adult total (% of people ages 15 and above),2000 89.7%
Literacy rate, adult total (% of people ages 15 and above),2010 92.6%

Adult Literacy increase
Venezuela 1.8% from 2001-2011
Latin America 2.9% from 2000-2010

Isabel dijo...

Excuse me just a tiny comment. It sounds better in English to say Chavez was the engine instead of the motor behind the current Venezuelan tragedy.